Forskning / Projekt

Like Fish in Water? Surveillance in Post-Communist Sociteies

The project Like Fish in Water: Surveillance in Post-Communist Societies is an international research initiative that seeks to understand and explain the relationship between surveillance, trust, and social equality in countries in Central and Eastern Europe. The project is carried out by researchers from the Södertörn University in Stockholm, Sweden, and the University of Warsaw, Poland. It is broadly social scientific, applying perspectives from political science, sociology, and criminology. The study includes three stages: 1) an overview of surveillance technologies deployed by public agencies in 18 post-communist countries; 2) an international opinion survey in Estonia, Poland and Ukraine; and 3) case studies of specific surveillance practices.

Like Fish in Water is funded by the Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies for the period 2013-2015 ( Research is carried out by Fredrika Björklund (researcher), Pawel Waszkiewicz (researcher), and Ola Svenonius (project manager and researcher).

Like Fish in Water is guided by an interest developed in a forerunner project that included the Polish case, which pointed to questions of trust and social sorting; but also to resistance and the complexities of post-communist societies. For example, Poland was unique in the previous study because it was the only case where surveillance was not politicised at all, neither by state institutions such as the data protection agency GIODO, nor by civil rights organisation such as Panoptykon. This leads us to want to extend the study to include more cases, and especially ones that transgress the borders of the EU. There is to date little work regarding the extent, intensity, and regulation of surveillance in post-communist societies. However, far from being uniform,  there are large differences within this population of states that are of interest from a social scientific point of view. Comparison between different post-communist societies therefore seems to be a rewarding strategy if one seeks to understand how political legacies interact with contemporary political life.

The research team is currently focusing on four sub-projects: regulation of video surveillance in Poland, e-governance in Estonia, the media discorse on the Snowden revelations in international comparison, and an international opinion survey in four countries. The plan is to publish result from each of these areas during 2014-15. In parallel we focus on theory development with respect to privacy, transparency and trust.


  • Svenonius, Ola, Fredrika Björklund, and Paweł Waszkiewicz. 2014. “Surveillance, Lustration and the Open Society: Poland and Eastern Europe.” In Histories of State Surveillance in Europe and beyond, Routledge studies in crime and society, eds. Kees Boersma, Rosamunde van Brakel, Chiara Fonio, and Pieter Wagenaar. New York: Routledge, 95–117.

Project application:


Conference contributions:
  • Post-Communism in a Surveillance Perspective. “Surveillance: Ambiguities and Asymmetries”. Surveillance & Society’s 6th conference, Barcelona (ES), 24.-26.04.2014.

  • Trust and surveillance in a low trust setting. “Surveillance: Ambiguities and Asymmetries”. Surveillance & Society’s 6th conference, Barcelona (ES), 24.-26.04.2014.

  • Like Fish in Water: An international survey of surveillance in post-communist societies. ”Eurocrim 2013”. 13th annual conference of the European Society of Criminology. Budapest, 4-7.9.2013.

  • Reflections on Surveillance and Affect. ECPR standing group on Theoretical Perspectives in

    Policy Analysis, 8th International Interpretive Policy Analysis Conference (IPA) 2013: ”Societies in Conflict: Experts, Publics and Democracy”, Vienna (AU), 3-5.7.2013


For more information and/or feedback, please contact Ola Svenonius (link to the right on this page).


Citizenship Studies 2016, 20 (6-7): 914-931.

The present article concerns Estonian e-government, that is, the digitalization of government and public administration, and the way e-government produces a moral citizen. Although several case studies on e-government exist, they have seldom been sensitive to the local conditions shaping the functions and social meaning of digitalization. E-government involves producing knowledge, and the present article draws on a theoretical perspective that stresses the tight relationship between knowledge and power. In Estonia, the power–knowledge regime is characterized by centralization. Centralization is the condition for a firm national e-government policy, and within this policy, an image of the unique Estonian citizenry is produced. The Estonian moral citizen who emerges out of e-government is de-politicized and detached from a social context, on the one hand, and strongly politicized and attached to a specific ethno-national community, on the other.

Fredrika Björklund

Östersjö- och Östeuropaanknytning





Politik, ekonomi och samhällets organisering




Ola Svenonius

Personer knutna till projektet

Fredrika Björklund
Lektor, Docent
Institutionen för samhällsvetenskaper

Dr. Pawel Waszkiewicz, University of Warsaw

Mer information

Projektstart: 2013
Projektslut: 2016

Finansiär: Östersjöstiftelsen

Projektet har Östersjö- och Östeuropaanknytning: Ja

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